National Geographic Islander II Activities

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Aaron Saunders
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Entertainment & Activities

Expedition Activities aboard National Geographic Islander II

Most activities take place ashore, with multiple daily expedition landings and options for guests to take part in.

Activities vary depending on weather conditions and regulations in the Galapagos, but generally, zodiac cruises and hikes are offered in nearly every landing site. These are guided by the ship's dedicated naturalists and are controlled and regulated by the government. In other words, no wandering off on your own.

Where conditions and regulations allow, passengers may also kayak, snorkel, or take part in stand-up paddleboarding. Kayaks come in both doubles and singles, though we found the singles are more prone to rolling than other types we've been in. If you're new to kayaking, grab a partner and set out in the more stable double kayaks for a better experience.

First-timers can generally go snorkeling; expedition staff will brief passengers on the conditions for all activities and advise if there are any who should not participate.

Generally speaking, passengers embarking on a Galapagos expedition should be in good health and should not have mobility issues, as everything -- even embarking the ship -- requires passengers to be able to get in and out of Zodiac rafts.

Daily Things to Do on National Geographic Islander II

When passengers aren't ashore on expeditions, briefings and lectures are held in the ship's Cove Lounge all the way forward on Deck 4. These range from presentations on the natural history of the Galapagos Islands (and its benefactor, Charles Darwin) to full blown scientific lectures presented by onboard researchers doing work in conjunction with National Geographic and the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora.

On the little downtime passengers will find themselves with (activities are very go-go-go all day from dawn until dusk), reading on the ship's upper sun deck or taking a nap reign supreme.

Nightlife on National Geographic Islander II

After a full day of exploration and a filling dinner, most passengers turn in early. Evening lectures or photography classes are sometimes held post-dinner over cocktails in the Cove Lounge, but really, the primary activity in the evenings aboard National Geographic Islander II tends to be nightcaps and sleep.

The ship's bartender will, however, stay in the Cove Lounge as long as there are people present, and a few groups on our sailing would hang on until around 11 p.m. before turning in.

On one evening, a wine-and-cheese night is held on the Sun Deck on Deck 5 -- a passenger favorite, particularly for those looking to sample local Ecuadorian wines and cheeses.

National Geographic Islander II Bars and Lounges

The Cove Lounge is the main watering hole aboard National Geographic Islander, and is typically open in the pre-dinner hours until late. However, fear not: you can get your mimosa on at breakfast, or indulge in a mid-afternoon beer thanks to the in-room mini bars and beer and soft drink coolers found in the Cove Lounge and small reading nook next to the Reception area on Deck 2 aft.

Public Rooms

Pools Aboard National Geographic Islander II

There is one main pool aboard National Geographic Islander, situated at the base of the radar mast at the forward end of Deck 5. The pool itself is surrounded by plush loungers and blocked by a windscreen, making it usable in adverse weather or when the ship is underway.

The pool is, however, unheated and tended to go unused on our sailing due to the cool water temperature. There is no hot tub onboard National Geographic Islander II.

Sun Decks aboard National Geographic Islander II

The ship's entire uppermost deck -- Observation Deck 5 -- is devoted to outdoor pursuits. Accessible only by an set of external spiral staircases that lead down to Promenade Deck 4 (there is no internal stairwell access), this spacious open deck is cleverly divided into two sections: the forward open section, and the back covered section.

The covered area offers three hammocks, along with plush lounge chairs that are perfect for reading, napping, or enjoying a cold Ecuadorian beer. A small bar is located here, but it is never staffed.

Forward, the ship's swimming pool is surrounded by sun loungers and is completely uncovered for those sun-worshippers that can't get enough of that equatorial heat.

One deck below, on Promenade Deck 4, a small, narrow teak promenade covers 180 degrees of the ship, and wraps around the vessel's bow, terminating in a forward-facing observation area in front of the Cove Lounge. Exterior staircases at the back make it possible to descend through Deck 3's lifeboat and mechanical areas and down to Deck 2, where the docking station has been converted into another space for scenic cruising and relaxing -- albeit a fully covered one. However, mooring capstans and ventilation uptakes for such fun-sounding spaces as "Void 44" and "Sewage Holding Tank" make it a space you may not want to spend much time in, depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Services and Wi-Fi on National Geographic Islander II

National Geographic Islander II has a decent amount of services aboard, including a small gift shop selling local Ecuadorian souvenirs (many of them handmade), and an onboard library and coffee station.

The ship's Reception Desk on Deck 2 aft is unmanned; a book is left out for passengers needing assistance with any issues that may arise. And, owing to the intimate nature of the ship, finding a member of the crew or expedition staff is never hard.

A dedicated doctor sails aboard National Geographic Islander II, and their services are provided free of charge.

Wi-Fi internet access is offered in suites and public spaces, and performed decently -- if not speedily -- for much of our journey. Passengers are all given seven complimentary hours of internet usage; additional time-duration packages can be purchased for a nominal fee.

Internet onboard is only valid for one device at a time, and uses the old log-in, log-out method. If you forget to log out of your package, or turn your phone or laptop off without disconnecting, it will simply use up your entire package, so watch out!

Valet laundry is offered for a fee; there is no self-serve laundry option onboard.

Spa & Fitness

Passengers sailing aboard National Geographic Islander II will be pleasantly surprised to find a decently-sized fitness center onboard, along with a sauna, both of which are located on Observation Deck 5. Both are new additions owing to the ship's 2015 rebuild by former operator Crystal Cruises, and both are accordingly decked out with new equipment and décor.

The ship also offers a small spa -- really, a small cabin converted into a massage therapy area. The ship's onboard masseuse provides a variety of massage treatments, including Ecuadorian-themed services, for prices that generally run between $100 and $200. A sign-up book is located outside the spa room, and an overview of the week's daily programs and shore landings are provided so passengers don't accidentally double-book themselves for times when activities ashore are provided (though you can absolutely do so if you wish).

For Kids

Despite its trappings as an expedition ship with a luxury pedigree, National Geographic Islander II is -- like all Lindblad Expeditions' ships -- family-friendly. To that end, kids are encouraged to participate in activities ashore with the grown-ups, and onboard activities for kids focus on educational learning -- and not just about the destination.

On our voyage, kids were invited to go on a shipboard, science and nature-based scavenger hunt and compete for prizes that were awarded out on the last day of the cruise. They also got their own personal tour of the ship's Navigation Bridge with the Captain, and were even taken out on the Zodiac rafts for their chance to "drive" (albeit briefly and under supervision!) the zodiac.

Crew on our sailings welcomed kids, as did fellow passengers: the presence of children is not looked down upon by either group, so those who are seeing a child-free experience should look elsewhere.

For families with kids interested in the natural world, a trip to the Galapagos is a tremendous education, one that the littlest cruisers on our sailing took to with gusto.

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